Lebanon’s Former Public Works Minister Faces Questioning over Beirut Port Blast

The judicial investigator probing the Beirut port explosion, Judge Fadi Sawwan has summoned former public works minister, Youssef Fenianos and the port’s former customs chief, Moussa Hazimeh to appear for interrogation next Thursday.

Six months after one of the largest non-nuclear explosions on record, which injured thousands of people, victims are still awaiting the result of the investigation, although Lebanese leaders had earlier promised it would come within days.

Sawwan had already called former finance minister Ali Hassan Khalil, along with former public works ministers Ghazi Zoaiter and Fenianos for questioning over the blast.

However, Zoaiter and Khalil refused to attend the questioning, saying that as current members of parliament, they enjoy immunity.

The highly explosive chemicals that triggered the Beirut port explosion last August 4, were stored for years in poor conditions at the port, which lies in the heart of the Lebanese capital.

Since August, Sawwan has brought charges against 37 people.

But many Lebanese remain skeptical that senior politicians will be held to account, fearing the truth will never emerge from a system riven by corruption.

Human Rights Watch in a report released early this month notes Lebanese authorities have failed to deliver any justice for the catastrophic explosion in the past six months.

Meanwhile, lawyers of Palestinians, Egyptians and Syrians killed in the explosion are following up on a letter they presented last week to Sawwan.

The four lawyers had filed a complaint against the owner of a British-registered company possibly linked to the blast, Savaro, and the sole director at Companies House, Marina Psyllou, and the company’s former director Greta Bieliene, requesting they be questioned to reveal the real owners of the company.

In January, a Lebanese lawyers’ association asked British authorities to halt the voluntary liquidation of Savaro.

In the January 25 letter to British lawmaker Margaret Hodge, the Beirut Bar Association noted it had asked the UK corporate registry, Companies House, to prevent Savaro Ltd, which it described as an “indicted entity”, from being wound up, in order to allow investigations into its possible role in the blast to continue.

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